Background: Electronic prescribing is now the norm in many countries. We wished to find out if clinical software systems used by general practitioners in Australia include features (functional capabilities and other characteristics) that facilitate improved patient safety and care, with a focus on quality use of medicines. Methods: Seven clinical software systems used in general practice were evaluated. Fifty software features that were previously rated as likely to have a high impact on safety and/or quality of care in general practice were tested and are reported here. Results: The range of results for the implementation of 50 features across the 7 clinical software systems was as follows: 17-31 features (34-62%) were fully implemented, 9-13 (18-26%) partially implemented, and 9-20 (18-40%) not implemented. Key findings included: Access to evidence based drug and therapeutic information was limited. Decision support for prescribing was available but varied markedly between systems. During prescribing there was potential for medicine mis-selection in some systems, and linking a medicine with its indication was optional. The definition of 'current medicines' versus 'past medicines' was not always clear. There were limited resources for patients, and some medicines lists for patients were suboptimal. Results were provided to the software vendors, who were keen to improve their systems. Conclusions: The clinical systems tested lack some of the features expected to support patient safety and quality of care. Standards and certification for clinical software would ensure that safety features are present and that there is a minimum level of clinical functionality that clinicians could expect to find in any system.
JournaltitleBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making